Friday, March 19, 2021

Voyager, Season 7: Human Error

Voyager, Season 7
"Human Error"

Airdate: March 7, 2001
161 of 168 produced
161 of 168 aired


Seven of Nine explores her romantic side on the holodeck, but runs into complications.

Look out, Seven, he's about to Aziz Ansari you!



Matthew: So this episode clearly has some conceptual problems. The notion that Seven of Nine should explore romance is clearly at the fore here. That's all well and good. But the scenarios here are contrived to suit that goal, as opposed to feeling organic. For instance, what in holy hell is the holodeck doing making holo-Chakotay pushy to the point of causing Seven to have an attack? Is this character based on some sort of profile of Chakotay? Programming created by Seven herself? The holodeck character acts in the episode as if it's a real character without explanation. In "Fair Haven," those characters always had a certain remove from "reality," even when Janeway was romancing Michael Sullivan. Holo-Chakotay seems sentient in the way the Doctor is.

Kevin: I think the choice of the holodeck is a cheat that damages the whole episode. It lets them explore the issue while avoiding even the hint of consequences. It's not that I object to Seven using the holodeck for what...well, everyone else uses it for, but since we know none of it will impact her actual relationships, it starts it on the wrong foot. I'm actually going to go so far as to suggest it was a mistake to go right to romance. The scenes of her at the ersatz baby shower relating to the crew were far more affecting, and I think if the show had focused on her desire to be closer to the people she already had actual relationships with, it would have worked better.

As far as Seven's actual scenes, minus the conceptual difficulty they are in fact quite enjoyable. The music playing was solid and evocative, the repartee and cooking stuff was a nice layer of softness to her character. Basically, it was so enjoyable that I just wished they were "real world" scenes. Now, I understand that we're getting an insight into her desires or fantasies. But I think the episode should have made the leap to the real world halfway.  Speaking of music, however, this may be the weakest teaser ever in the series. Just having Seven playing piano music, while pleasant, does not lead to natural and pressing follow-up questions.

Kevin: For me, the opening scene in the baby shower was the one rife with real world possibilities. Even her asking B'Elanna for advice on doing her hair was good. Watching Seven cautiously reach out to her actual friends was nice, and for me, far more fertile ground. I think there was a way to thread this needle about Seven exploring her boundaries and relationships that paid dividends. I suppose part of my problem is that I can't shake the sense that when the writers asked themselves "How do we portray Seven's growth?" they jumped right to romance. TV and movies tend to treat romantic relationships, and usually marriage, as the natural end state of all people that they are monomaniacally working toward. And especially for a character like Seven, whose life has been so fundamentally different, I think it speaks to a lack of imagination that the endgame of her emotional growth must be dating Chakotay.

Matthew: The B-story was pretty pointless. It only existed to provide Seven with something to be distracted by. With that said, I enjoyed the Icheb contributions quite a lot. Any time you inject quoted from Sophocles and Titus Livius into my entertainment, I'm going to be appreciative. Which makes the character's eventual evisceration in "Picard" an even better story choice, because the only way to provide motivation for characters is by killing people they care about. 

Kevin: I think this episode cries out for being one of the relatively rare ones without a B-story. I just rewatched Data's Day that didn't really have a true B-plot. Both the wedding and the Romulan story were centered on Data. I think a similar treatment would have really benefitted this episode. The line I kept waiting for through all of it was some kind of acknowledgement that Seven is not just allowed but entitled to a personal life and the freedom to occasionally make a mistake. Seven and the crew have, admittedly by mutual agreement, treat Seven as superhuman, and that's not actually healthy, for either of them. This could have been a great episode to discuss Seven and the crew's expectations about her.

Matthew: Ultimately, I don't really know why this story exists. Did they need to establish that Seven couldn't have emotional relationships? The very notion seems belied by her experiences in Unimatrix Zero, as well as her relationships with Icheb, the Borg children, and Naomi Wildman. We also had a perfectly functional "Seven starts dating" episode in Season 5's "Someone to Watch Over me." That episode had a lot more going for it, specifically novelty and including singing (as opposed to some weak-ass piano "drama.")

Kevin: In the notes for the episode on Memory Alpha, Andre Bormanis said he thought the episode was a parable for PTSD, and while I like that idea, I just don't see it. In fact, why not just make this episode about PTSD? I would fully accept the notion that Seven has a lot of complicated feelings she has not processed that would manifest right when she starts to get closer to people. My biggest problem with the episode is that they consciously whiff on character growth. Punting and making it some odd technical problem was just a lost opportunity. It's almost offensive to me they wrote a story that says one of their most interesting characters just isn't going to grow anymore.


Matthew: Jeri Ryan gives it her best here, and I basically believed her character's emotional journey throughout the episode. For that matter, Robert Beltran appeared pleased to have something to do that didn't involve technobabble and hailing frequencies. But with that said, he could not sell the "lick sauce off my pinkie" cringe-fest. 

Kevin: I've mentioned them above, but the dialogue with holo-Janeway and real-B'Elanna really got me. She was choosing to make herself vulnerable and those scenes really sang. The romance scenes were less effective because I just don't believe they had chemistry, but that wasn't really anyone's fault. But the scenes of her asking her friends for help or acknowledging their importance was really great.

Production Values

Matthew: This was mostly a bottle show, and I did like the way the crew quarters set was turned into a reflection of Seven of Nine's personality. I also liked the piano and metronome. The space shots were pretty generic Voyager CGI - not bad by any stretch, but certainly not memorable.

Kevin: Yeah, this was a solid, if unremarkable show. I kind of wished she at least kept the quarters. 


Matthew:  When it comes down to it, there isn't much of a reason to watch this beyond "I like Seven of Nine, and here are 40 or so minutes of her doing stuff." The emotional territory has been covered before, character relationships don't change owing to most of the interesting scenes being simulations, the B story is useless, and we don't really learn anything new or lasting about her. But there is still a baseline watchability to "Seven of Nine doing stuff." So I will give it a 2.

Kevin: I'm actually kind of offended by the ending of this episode. Both then and now, it felt like a copout to place a structural bar to the character changing. It is, in a way, the most egregious use of the Reset Button in a show that used it too often. Individual moments work on the strength of Jeri Ryan's acting skills, but overall this episode is a disservice to the character. I agree with the 2 for a total of 4.

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